The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13
Greg Linch § Matching cuts / 2014-09-16 18:18:15
Inque § Matching cuts / 2014-09-05 13:27:23
Gavin Craig § Matching cuts / 2014-08-31 16:33:56


I am a sucker for a sun-dappled sidewalk, and it occurs to me that dappling is actually a pretty specific effect. You’ve seen images like this before: here’s a good look (with bonus Impressionist rendition). Overlapping tree-branches become cameras; how weird and how cool.


In ’92, I think, there was an annular eclipse of the sun in Chicago. I went to the lakefront with some sort of box-with-a-pinhole hack of a viewer, but couldn’t get it to work. And then I looked around and noticed that all the dapples of sunlight had bites out of them, turning into dancing rings. It’s pleasant to be reminded of that moment.

Edward Tufte has a nice little thing on dappled light, instancing what sounds like a lovely book—M. G. J. Minnaert, Light and Color in the Outdoors—as well as the “Pools of Light” pattern in Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language.

Oh, right! That Minnaert book Tufte mentions is the one mentioned at Absurdly Certain, too.

Yup, and the Minnaert book is great, but pretty ad hoc; it essentially reads like a journal of notes jotted down on walks in the woods and town.

I strongly recommend Lynch and Livingston’s Color and Light in Nature as a much more organized and polished presentation of the same general topics that Minnaert covered. It’s currently out of print and often listed for >$100, but if you set up an alert you can usually get the paperback 2nd edition for <$50.

Minnaert: “Good sun-pictures are to be found in the shade of beeches, lime-trees, and sycamores, but seldom in that of poplars, elms, and plane-trees.”

Huh, in America “sycamore” and “plane-tree” are the same tree, so I guess Minnaert must be referring to the European “sycamore”, which is really a maple. Still, kind of mysterious to me why one would work well and not the other; they have similar leaves, and I can’t remember the form being particularly different either.

And the lime-tree is typically called linden or basswood in North America, and has leaves not unlike that of the poplar. I think it’s just a wonderful and funny observation, this hint of an arborial dappled connoisseurship, regardless of the veracity of the claim. Too bad the Livingston is out of print; it’s on Google Books in limited preview.

I have a standing alert on so let me know if you want me to send you a copy :). I’m curious about these tree differences now; maybe it is the growth form that makes the difference. Minnaert has another section talking about how dense a forest has to be to block out direct sunlight entirely. Will check it out.

If it’s an arborial dappling prejudice then that’s even more charming somehow.

“Arborial dappling”—oh NICE!

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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